Introduction to "The Negro and the American Promise"

Psychology professor at the City College of New York, Dr. Kenneth Clark introduces the segment "The Negro and the American Promise" from Boston public television producer Henry Morgenthau III. Featuring interviews with Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin, the segment made headlines in spring 1963. The program aired in a climate of racial conflict, just months after Alabama governor George Wallace's defiant support of "segregation forever," and before the March on Washington.

Transcript

Dr. Kenneth Clark: James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X are, in different ways, symbols and spokesmen for the Negro crying out for his full rights as an American citizen. And now. If one dares to look for the common denominator of such seemingly different forms of Negro protest, one sees in each of these men a dramatic response to America's attempt to deny to its Negro citizens the fulfillment of the American promise.

By all meaningful indices, the Negro is still, and unquestionably, the downtrodden, disparaged group, and for a long time was systematically deprived of his dignity as a human being. The major indictment of our democracy is that this is being done with the knowledge and at times with the connivance of responsible, moderate people who are not overtly bigots or segregationists.

We have now come to the point where there are only two ways that America can avoid continued racial explosions. One would be total oppression. The other, total equality. There is no compromise. I believe, I hope, that we are on the threshold of a truly democratic America. It is not going to be easy to cross that threshold. But the achievement of the goals of justice, equality, and democracy for all American citizens involves the very destiny of our nation.

 

 

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